[Opinion] Awareness of environmental issues is at its highest, research shows - Why Aren't People Doing More?

I’ve come across this article. Sure people are more aware about environmental issues but what will make them doing something?

Investigating psycology of people around these issues and using some intuition from my own experience I’ve come to some conclusions which I’m going to briefly share. Would be great if people had some of theirs to add to it.

Firstly people start from a point of anger when it comes to environmental issues. When we’re angry we’re actually pretty irrational and it doesn’t engage our doing or planning parts of our brain, we just want to shout, right? When we do engage our doing part of our brain we start to think ‘how can I make a difference?’, ‘how does this affect my identity?’, ‘why isn’t this easier for me?’. For me, that cycle has often got me angry again…

We have to think about what will actually get people to shift their behaviour. I’ve been reading ‘Nudge’ recently which outlines that behavioural change is best stimulated when to compare data. It’s been found that if someone sees the average consumption of a group, they will try and consume less. If they are told they’re doing badly this doesn’t help as much, nor does seeing the top result, the average is what people like to compete against.

The other part is that we haven’t engaged the planning brain in this process. When people are stimulated by emotion to do something they have a long way to go to take action, unless it’s really easy like writing to your MP, or in some cases making a pledge. The pledge interestingly stimulates the planning part of your brain which then takes you on a journey.

My view is that we all need to be thinking where do we want to be in terms of our impact at the end of the decade or the end of the year and then work towards that. That allows us to make proper plans. When are cars dies, replace it with electric, or get rid, when the boiler dies, get an air source heat pump, when to redecorate, insulate like hell, reduce trips abroad but tell your loves ones you’ll be there in 2 years… I think that getting people to think like that will help direct how they engage with the issue.

What do others think?

I think this is a very important topic to discuss. I’ve often seen that people don’t change because they are worried about their livelihoods and their security with what they already have. They don’t want to change because they are comfortable with what they have. They like the idea of becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly but don’t want to break their habits and change their lifestyle. I believe that your view on setting long term goals and changing when change is needed is a better solution for most people.